The Only Saint in the Village

Llandewi Breffi is not only the home of Daffyd Thomas and his brother Dewi (both versions of the English name David) but it is where Saint David of Wales held his Synod of Breffi in the sixth century.

Today is Saint David’s day, and like Saint Patrick’s Day for the Irish, Saint George’s Day for the English, or Saint Andrew’s Day for the Scots, it is the day on which we celebrate all things Welsh. If you happen to see someone with a daffodil or a leek pinned to their breast today chances are that person is Welsh.

I was told that the tradition of wearing a leek came from a time when the Welsh were battling the English. The Welsh soldiers put leaks on their hats, and crouched down in a field. As the English came upon the field all they say was a crop of leaks and went marching on. The leeks arose like Birnam Wood in “the Scottish Play.” The English were defeated. I’ve also heard that it was simply a sign that the Welsh wore in battle so that they could distinguish themselves from the English, as if speaking Welsh wasn’t enough. I have my own ideas as to why the daffodil replaced the leek. They do look rather similar when first sprouting and in Welsh their names are similar too: Cenhinen (leek) and Cenhinen Pedr (daffodil, Peter’s leek). However, I have a feeling that once England and Wales became allies that the teeth in the symbolism of the leek were removed, and replaced with the more peaceful flower.

Many people think that Dewi Sant (Saint David) has a leek as his emblem, but his emblem is even more peaceful than the daffodil. The saint’s true emblem is the dove. It is said that one of his miracles took place at the Synod of Breffi, when preaching against Pelagianism. The people crowded about him and many of them could not hear what he was saying. Suddenly the ground rose up creating yet another hill in Wales on which the saint stood to deliver his sermon. While speaking it is said that the people in the crowd saw a dove descend and alight on his shoulder.

David lead a rather ascetic life and advocated fasting from meat and beer throughout the year, not only in Lent. As we are now in the season of Lent this clip, from How Green Was My Valley, is an appropriate example of Welsh choral singing:

I often remember Saint David’s day by watching How Green Was my Valley. Although John Ford made the family seem a bit more Irish than Welsh, he did have some lovely singing in the film. One of the things that the Welsh are famous for is singing. Since today is the feast day of Saint David I suppose it would be appropriate to celebrate with a slightly happier song if he is your patron, and I do love a good folk song:

The Welsh don’t only produce bendegedig choral singers, but there are some pretty fantastic soloists too. What would James Bond be without Shirley Bassey:

So Here’s to a happy Saint David’s Day!

Speaking Welsh


One thought on “The Only Saint in the Village

  1. Pingback: Who’s That? | Uncle Frog

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